Penal laws were imposed after the Reformation in an attempt to force Roman Catholics and dissenters, such as Presbyterians, to accept a particular religion as set down by British Rule.
If caught not adhering to these laws, penalties were severe involving fines, imprisonment and even death.
Catholic church services and schools were forbidden.
Some of the results of this were the starting of hedge schools, schools not in a hedge but in a house or barn. Classes were taken by local educated men. Subjects were usually reading, writing and arithmetic but sometimes reached far beyond that into subjects such as Latin.
Masses had to be held in secret in quarries, abandoned buildings or hidden valleys in the hills.
These laws lasted through most of the 18th Century and were nullified around 1791.